The Coronation Ceremony

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II photographed by Cecil Beaton on Coronation Days 2nd June 1953. She wears the Imperial State Crown. In her right hand she holds the Sceptre with the Cross; in her left hand the Sovereign’s Orb. On her wrists are the Bracelets, and on her right hand the Coronation Ring is seen. Her Majesty is arrayed in the purple velvet Imperial Robe of State, Her coronation gown of white satin made by Norman Hartnell, is entirely encrusted with precious and semi-precious stones.

Immediately upon the death of the Sovereign, his successor is proclaimed not by the Privy Council as such, but by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and other leading citizens—a body which is a survival of an ancient Anglo-Saxon assembly which met to identify and proclaim the king. After an interval of time the coronation ceremony follows giving religious sanction to the title and providing the occasion for the taking of the Oath of royal duties by the Sovereign.

Since the Norman Conquest the kings and queens of England have been crowned in Westminster Abbey. The Abbey was founded by the last Saxon king, St. Edward the Confessor, who had himself been crowned at Winchester. It was consecrated in December 1065, but the king was too ill to attend the celebrations and a few days later he died and was buried in the new church. In 1245 Henry III decided to pull down the Confessor’s building and create a worthy setting for a shrine to contain the bones of the saint. The shrine, the choir and the transepts were completed before Henry’s reign ended. By that time the Abbey had become the recognised place of coronation, and the king’s architect, Henry of Reyns, followed the plan of St. Edward’s church and placed the choir west of the crossing made by the transepts. Thus he provided a central space known as the “theatre” between the choir and the sanctuary and high altar as the setting for the coronation ceremony. It is still so used and so called.


Liber Regalis, the 14th- century Order of Service. It is thought to have been written and illuminated for the coronation of Queen Anne of Bohemia, consort of Richard II, in 1382. The king is seen seated in the coronation chair. This beautiful m.s. book was probably used by the sovereigns them¬selves at their coronations from Henry IV to Elizabeth I. It is the cherished possession of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey and is reproduced by kind permission.

Liber Regalis, the 14th- century Order of Service. It is thought to have been written and illuminated for the coronation of Queen Anne of Bohemia, consort of Richard II, in 1382. The king is seen seated in the coronation chair. This beautiful m.s. book was probably used by the sovereigns themselves at their coronations from Henry IV to Elizabeth I. It is the cherished possession of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey and is reproduced by kind permission.

Westminster Abbey  arranged for a coronation. The area at the crossing has been raised to the height of the sanctuary steps to provide a wide level space known technically as the ‘theatre*. It is here that most of the coronation ceremony takes place. This photograph was taken in 1937 a few seconds after King George VI was crowned. His late Majesty is seen seated in the Coronation Chair.

Westminster Abbey
arranged for a coronation. The area at the crossing has been raised to the height of the sanctuary steps to provide a wide level space known technically as the ‘theatre’. It is here that most of the coronation ceremony takes place. This photograph was taken in 1937 a few seconds after King George VI was crowned. His late Majesty is seen seated in the Coronation Chair.

Edward the Confessor’s nave sur­vived until, in 1375, Henry Yevele began to rebuild it for Edward III in the 13th-century style. It was completed early in the 16th century, after Henry VII had demolished the Lady Chapel and built the very lovely chapel which bears his name. Except for the addition of the western towers in 1734-45, Westminster Abbey has changed little in succeeding centuries and modem coronations take place in the same setting, and according to the same ritual, as in early medieval times.

On the day appointed for the coronation the principal emblems of the regalia are taken from the Tower of London to the Abbey. The Sovereign enters wearing the crimson velvet robes of a peer of Parliament and before him in the procession are borne the two-handed Sword of State, which represents his presence, and the Swords of Justice and Mercy. The ceremony begins with the presentation of the Sovereign and his acceptance by acclamation of the people gathered there. This is the formal recognition and it is followed by the administration of the oath, in which the Sovereign swears to govern his peoples according to their respect­ive laws and customs and to preserve the true religion.

The Sovereign being seated in the chair of State, the Archbishop of Canterbury begins the service of Holy Communion. He proceeds as far as the Creed, when the solemn office is interrupted for the first of the actual coronation rites, the cere­mony of anointing. The Sovereign is divested of his majestic crimson robe and, leaving the chair of State, seats himself in the coronation chair (King Edward’s chair). Holy oil is poured from the Ampulla into the Anointing Spoon and the Archbishop touches the Sovereign with it on the hands, the breast and the crown of the head. The anointing is the most sacred and mystical part of the corona­tion ceremony as it represents divine confirmation of the people’s choice. A Frankish custom, it is first recorded in England in 785, when Offa, king of Mercia, had his son Egfrith, anointed and crowned as his successor. This was the first known Christian consecration of an Anglo-Saxon king.

The coronation ceremony begins with the Recognition. This is followed by the Oath which the Sovereign takes at the High Altar, and by the Anointing.  The Sovereign is then invested with the Royal Robes. First a sleeveless garment, the Colobium Sindonis, and then the long coat-like Supertunica or Close PaJl of cloth of gold.

The coronation ceremony begins with the Recognition. This is followed by the Oath which the Sovereign takes at the High Altar, and by the Anointing.
The Sovereign is then invested with the Royal Robes. First a sleeveless garment, the Colobium Sindonis, and then the long coat-like Supertunica or Close Pall of cloth of gold.

It is the anointing that gives the Sovereign claim to the royal title and the ceremony is followed by the investment with the royal robes and ornaments culminating in the crowning.

The Sovereign is invested first with the white Colobium Sindonis, a sleeveless garment similar to a bishop’s rochet, and then the Supertunica or Close Pall, a sleeved robe of cloth of gold lined with crimson silk, together with the girdle or sword belt. The Golden Spurs which signify knight­hood are brought from the altar, the Lord Great Chamberlain touches the Sovereign’s heels with them and they are returned to the altar. (A queen regnant only touches the Spurs with her hand.) The Archbishop takes the Jewelled State Sword (the Sovereign’s personal sword, known in the modem ritual as the Sword of Offering) from the Keeper of the Jewel House and accompanied by the bishops places it in the Sovereign’s hand. It is then girt about him and the Archbishop says: “With this sword do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the Holy Church of God …. punish and reform what is amiss, and confirm what is in good order. — and so faithfully serve our Lord Jesus Christ in this life, that you may reign for ever with him in the life which is to come.” The sword is then removed (a queen regnant receives the sword but does not wear it) and laid on the altar.

The 14th century Liber Regalis directs that at this point “the earl who is greatest of those present shall redeem it, and then carry it naked before the king. The price of the sword belongs to the Altar.” The peer who has been carrying the Sword of State now exchanges it for the

Jewelled Sword, which he redeems for one hundred shillings and, drawing it from its scabbard, he carries it for the rest of the service. The Sword of State is meanwhile deposited in St. Edward’s Chapel.

The investing with the Armills, or “Bracelets of sincerity and wisdom’’, and the Robe Royal or Pall of cloth of gold, with the Stole Royal, follows. The Sovereign has now received all the royal vestments and the delivery of the rest of the ornaments begins. First comes the Orb. As the Arch­bishop places it in the Sovereign’s right hand he pronounces the words: “Receive this Orb set under the Cross, and remember that the whole world is subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer.”

The Sovereign is now invested with the insignia. First the Spurs are brought from the High Altar which the Sovereign touches.

The Sovereign is now invested with the insignia. First the Spurs are brought from the High Altar which the Sovereign touches.

The Orb is returned to the altar and the Archbishop places on the fourth finger of the Sovereign’s right hand the Coronation Ring, “the ensign of kingly dignity.” This is followed by the investiture with the Sceptres. The Sceptre with the Cross, signifying “kingly power and justice”, is set in the right hand of the Sovereign and the Sceptre with the Dove, “the rod of equity and mercy”, in the left.

Now comes the supreme moment when the Archbishop, having first laid St. Edward’s Crown on the altar and pronounced the dedicatory prayers, places it on the Sovereign’s head. As he does so the people make their acclamation, crying, “with loud and repeated shouts”, “God save the King”, or, when the monarch is a queen regnant, “God save the Queen”. The princes and princesses, and peers and peeresses and the Kings of Arms put on their coronets, the trumpets sound and at the Tower of London the great guns boom out their salute.

As the acclamation ceases the Archbishop offers the noble prayer: “God crown you with a crown of glory and righteousness, that having a right faith and manifold fruit of good works, you may obtain the crown of an everlasting kingdom by the gift of him whose kingdom endureth for ever.”

Thus anointed and crowned, and having received all the ensigns of the kingly state, the Sovereign receives the Archbishop’s blessing. The en­thronement follows. Leaving St. Edward’s chair, the Sovereign goes to the raised throne in the centre of the Theatre, facing the altar, and is “lifted up into it by the Archbishop and Bishops and other Peers and solemnly inthronised or placed therein.” This is historically the moment when the Sovereign takes possession of the kingdom and he now receives the homage of the princes and peers.

At the coronation of a king the crowning of the queen consort follows, but otherwise the service of Holy Communion is resumed at the Offertory, the Sovereign laying aside St. Edward’s Crown.

The Presentation of the Sword. In the final act of this ritual the Sovereign returns the Sword to the Dean of Westminster who places it on the High Altar.

The Presentation of the Sword. In the final act of this ritual the Sovereign returns the Sword to the Dean of Westminster who places it on the High Altar.

After the final benediction the Sovereign, again wearing the crown, descends from the throne. The four swords—the Jewelled State Sword, the Sword of Justice to the Spirituality, the Sword of Justice to the Tem­porality and Curtana—are carried before him as he retires for his arrayal in sovereign splendour. As St. Edward’s Crown is very heavy, weighing nearly five pounds, it is replaced by the lighter Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign leaves the Abbey in a magnificent robe of purple velvet and carrying the Sceptre with the Cross and the Orb. St. Edward’s Crown is not used again until the next coronation.

When a king’s consort is crowned with him the anointing of the queen is followed by the presentation of ornaments similar to his, but smaller. She receives a simpler version of the Sceptre with the Cross and, instead of the Sceptre with the Dove, the Queen’s Ivory Rod. A queen consort does not receive an orb, which is delivered only to a sovereign regnant.

The supreme moment. Holding St. Edward’s Crown high above the Sovereign, the Archbishop pauses for a moment and then reverently lowers it.

The supreme moment. Holding St. Edward’s Crown high above the Sovereign, the Archbishop pauses for a moment and then reverently lowers it.

The Benediction. The Sove¬reign having received all the ensigns of royalty, is ready to take possession of the kingdom and the Archbishop gives the Benediction.

The Benediction. The Sovereign having received all the ensigns of royalty, is ready to take possession of the kingdom and the Archbishop gives the Benediction.

The Enthronement. Symbolically by this ritual the Sovereign enters into and takes possession of the kingdom. Rising from King Edward3s Chair, she proceeds to the raised throne.

The Enthronement. Symbolically by this ritual the Sovereign enters into and takes possession of the kingdom. Rising from King Edward’s Chair, she proceeds to the raised throne.

The Homage. Having been anointedy crowned and enthroned, the Sovereign can now receive the homage of the princes and peers. First to pay homage are spiritual peers. They are followed by the temporal peers.

The Homage. Having been anointedy crowned and enthroned, the Sovereign can now receive the homage of the princes and peers. First to pay homage are spiritual peers. They are followed by the temporal peers.

The superb and solemn scene as the Sovereign takes her place in the Procession. This proceeds through the Abbey to the Annexe which has been specially built at the west door. Here await the coaches for the triumphal State Procession.

The superb and solemn scene as the Sovereign takes her place in the Procession. This proceeds through the Abbey to the Annexe which has been specially built at the west door. Here await the coaches for the triumphal State Procession.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Designed for England London